News from the
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
July 9, 2008
USDA Grant Advances PRRS Virus Vaccine ResearchURBANA - Dr. Dongwan Yoo, a researcher at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, has spent more than a dozen years studying the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus, a pathogen that arose 20 years ago and represents one of the biggest disease threats plaguing U.S. pork producers today.
In July Dr. Yoo received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the USDA to further his investigations. His earlier work has identified two proteins in the PRRS virus that likely help the virus evade the pig's immune response by shutting down interferon, a frontline defense in the cell's arsenal against infection.
With the USDA funding, Dr. Yoo's laboratory in the Department of Pathobiology will use genetic engineering to further map the mechanisms by which the PRRS virus alters the interferon response. He plans to generate mutant PRRS viruses that do not suppress the interferon response but instead trigger a normal immune response in the pig. The mutant viruses will be evaluated for their potential in creating a vaccine against PRRS.
In June Dr. Yoo's vaccine research was acknowledged at the Eleventh International Nidovirus Symposium, held in Oxford, U.K. He presented work that demonstrated how a vaccine developed with a genetically altered PRRS virus could be used to carry genes from another swine disease, porcine circovirus type 2, to induce antibody responses in pigs to both pathogens. Thus, he has demonstrated the potential for using the PPRS virus to create vaccines that protect against other diseases in pigs.
A number of researchers in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, including Dr. Yoo, are engaged in an integrated PRRS research effort spanning the molecular biology of the virus, virus-host interactions, and disease epidemiology in swine herds.
Dr. Federico Zuckermann looks at cellular and molecular mechanisms of T cell-mediated immunity. In the quest for a PRRS vaccine, he has developed a robust cell line in which to grow the PRRS virus and has isolated a strain of the virus that stimulates immunity to many variants.
Dr. William Laegreid uses an eco-epidemiologic approach that includes state-of-the-art molecular genomics and population-based studies to examine factors affecting the PRRS virus.
Dr. Larry Firkins is concerned with best management practices on swine farms and the economic impact of PRRS on Illinois pork producers.
Last summer, the Department of Pathobiology assembled a panel of national experts to develop a white paper on PRRS vaccine research.